Our body deserves extra tender loving care during those cold blustery days. The shift from warm weather to cold, crisp temperatures can take a toll on our skin, hair and scalp. Cold air and strong winds, coupled with indoor heating and plummeting humidity, can zap our skin’s moisture and lead to dry flaky skin, itchy scalp and brittle hair.
While switching up your seasonal skin care ritual may seem daunting, it doesn’t have to be difficult. A few simple adjustments to your beauty regimen can go a long way. Read on to find out what causes dry skin and five tips to help you keep your hair and skin healthy and hydrated naturally in the gloomier months, no matter what the environment throws your way.
What causes dry skin during winter?
Our skin is coated with a thin protective layer made up of oil (sebum), lipids, protein and water. Dryness occurs when our skin’s natural barrier is compromised and lacks the adequate amount of moisture on its outer surface, i.e. the epidermis 1.
Although dry skin can be caused by atopic and chronic conditions such as dermatitis or eczema, external factors such as environmental pollutants, extreme hot/cold temperatures, and low humidity can negatively impact your skin’s natural balance.
Dry skin can be triggered by 2 :
- Weather or fluctuations in temperature: Our skin tends to dry out in extremely dry or cold climates, when temperatures and humidity levels drop.
Central heating, wood-burning stoves and fireplaces all reduce humidity and dry out your skin.
- Hot water: Taking long, hot showers or baths can dry out your skin.
- Harsh soaps and cleansers: Many popular soaps, detergents and shampoos can actually strip moisture from your skin and dry it out.
Symptoms of dry skin include itchiness and chapping, redness and irritation, as well as skin tightness and flakiness. You may also feel discomfort or that your skin is “pulling”. Areas frequently exposed to outdoor elements such as the arms, hands, elbows, face and scalp, tend to be more affected by dry skin. Luckily, these symptoms can easily be addressed in just a few steps.
Tip #1 – Switch up your skin care routine
We often wait to see symptoms of dry skin before taking action. But the best way to prep and protect our skin and hair for winter is to amp up our daily personal care routine before the cold weather sets in, so as to prevent and minimize damage and irritation.
Our skin’s needs vary according to the climate and season. And during winter, it requires extra care and nourishment because of drier temperatures. Your favorite summer moisturizer may not suffice as you transition into winter; as the outdoor humidity drops, so does your skin’s moisture. So it’s time to double up on the hydration!
Avoid using the same products year-round; instead, adapt your daily routine to the season and the changing needs of your skin. You’ll most likely need thicker, richer and more soothing skin care products in the winter compared to the warmer, more humid months. A rich moisturizer is essential to help you keep your skin feeling soothed, comfortable, and less irritated throughout the day, and is better suited to mitigate the effects of harsh weather.
Your skin needs a moisturizer that acts as a barrier on the skin to prevent moisture loss and keep your cells hydrated.
Enhance your skin’s moisture by amping up your skin care routine and supplementing it with nourishing oils such as argan, avocado or coconut. If your skin needs extra hydration, we recommend switching from lightweight formulas to cream-based and/or gentle face cleansers as well as a moisturizing shower gel to keep your skin fresh and glowing and to stimulate elasticity.
Tip #2 – Stock up on winter skin and hair essentials
Your scalp, just like your skin, is susceptible to weather fluctuations. While some people may experience dandruff during winter, others develop more oily scalps because of their body’s mechanism to produce more sebum to compensate for excess dryness 3.
If you have a more oily scalp, use a natural clarifying shampoo once a week to help remove excess sebum. For scalps prone to dandruff and flaky skin, choose a natural nourishing shampoo and conditioner containing nourishing ingredients like argan, shea butter or avocado oil.
These ultra-nourishing ingredients are easily absorbed into your skin and protect it from external aggressors. Apply a natural body lotion for sensitive skin containing these ingredients right after bathing, in the morning and before bedtime. You can also apply the oils directly on your hair as an overnight deep-conditioning treatment once or twice a week for ultimate hydration.
Apply a moisturizer to your body and face at least twice daily (especially right after you shower), and always carry a nourishing hand cream with you, and apply regularly. If you are prone to eczema, make sure you choose a natural and fragrance-free hand cream that is approved by the National Eczema Association
Tip #3 – Nourish and hydrate your body from the inside
Beauty also comes from within. We often forget that complete skin care also requires nourishing from the inside. Having a diet rich in vitamin E, C, B2, B3, zinc and omega-3 fatty acids – either as supplements or through increased intake of nutritious foods like fish, nuts, protein and leafy greens – will help boost collagen and improve your skin’s elasticity and suppleness 4.
Drinking enough water (approximately 2-3 litres a day) is also key to keeping your skin and hair well hydrated and replenished 5.
Tip #4 – Avoid harsh cleansers, washes and soaps
Keep in mind that sensitive scalps and dry skin symptoms may be aggravated by the products you use. Parabens, surfactants, synthetic fragrances and potentially harmful preservatives found in many hair and skin care products can actually trigger signs of dryness and irritation and cause your scalp to become overly sensitive 6.
Many cleansers contain harsh surfactants such as Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) and Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLES), which are used as emulsifiers or foaming agents to help remove dirt and oil from the skin. Unfortunately, these active agents can actually dry out your skin and scalp over time by stripping lipids and proteins from your skin, making it more susceptible to water loss and dehydration 7.
Opt for natural cleansers and shampoos that contain gentler, vegetable-based surfactants (coconut, corn or palm) that won’t cause dryness, so you can cleanse without compromising your skin.
Opt for hypoallergenic natural products that are free of harmful chemicals.
Choose moisturizing skin care and hair care products for sensitive skin that help protect your skin against inclement weather, and that do not cause dryness or irritation or accentuate skin sensitivity.
Tip #5 – Cool down on the hot water!
When it’s cold, we tend to spike up the water temperature to compensate for the chilly weather. However, this causes your blood vessels to dilate in order to release heat, resulting in more water evaporation, which in turn causes your skin to be more susceptible to dryness and irritation 8.
Although stepping into a warm bath can rejuvenate you on a cold winter day, hot water can also strip your body of its natural oils and dry up your hair shaft and skin. To prevent that from occurring, we recommend bathing in warm or lukewarm water and shortening your shower sessions to 10 minutes or less. If you’re feeling bold, use cool water at the end of your shower to help seal your pores and lock in moisture! Lastly, avoid bathing more than once a day.
Natural nourishing ingredients we love
- Shea butter
Shea butter’s rich texture is packed with essential fatty acids to keep your skin happy and protected. High in vitamins A and E, it helps promote collagen production in the skin. Moreover, it’s a natural anti-inflammatory agent that helps soothe extremely sensitive skin. Skin care or hair care products containing shea butter create a protective barrier on your skin and offer natural protection against winter damage and other skin irritations.
- Avocado oil
Avocado oil is an excellent emollient and skin softener. It’s packed with antioxidants and fatty acids to repair and nourish dry skin, and is especially soothing for sensitive skin &mdash all the more reason to use it during winter! Non-greasy and fast-absorbing, when added to a natural daily nourishing lotion, it will do wonders for your dry skin, helping protect the skin’s barrier and lock in moisture.
- Argan oil
Full of antioxidants and fatty acids,argan oil is revered for its moisturizing and nourishing properties. It has protective and restorative properties to deeply soothe dry skin and keep your hair feeling soft and bouncy.
- Coconut oil
Coconut oil is known for its versatility: fast-acting, absorbent and lightweight; it can moisturize and protect the skin’s outer layer. High in vitamin E and lauric acid, it can be used daily to moisturize every part of your body and condition your hair.
Its anti-inflammatory benefits may be helpful to treat skin blemishes and irritations, as well as soothe dry, flaky skin.
- Oatmeal and chamomile
Calming for the skin, these two conditioning agents are known to soothe itchy scalp and skin and to make hair smooth and shiny. They help repair, condition and soften skin, while increasing elasticity and reducing the risk of breakage in hair. With their anti-inflammatory properties, they help reduce redness and skin irritations, and protect even the most sensitive skins.
When it comes to winter, seasonal skin care is the way to go. Your skin undergoes a lot of changes during winter, so implementing a natural skin care regimen comprised of natural, highly nourishing ingredients like the ones mentioned above is crucial to prevent dry skin.
When to see a doctor
While most symptoms of dry skin can be easily treated with simple home remedies and an adequate natural skin care routine, you should consult your doctor if:
- our skin’s condition doesn’t improve over time.
- Your dry skin is accompanied by persistent redness or patches.
- If you scratch/itch frequently and/or experience bleeding.
- You have severe flaking, scaling or peeling skin.